Driving Safely on Unsafe Roads in Telangana, India
Like most people in rural India, I get around by bus, three-wheeled auto-rickshaw, and motorcycle. And now, after years of tempting fate by riding three to a bike, wearing sandals, without helmets, on bumpy roads like any other villager, I can add motorcycle accident to my list of South Asian adventures. If my mother is reading, I will politely ask her to move to another blog.
Visitors to India often name roads as the most frightening element in their trip. Loud, unpredictable, and seemingly without order, vehicles swerve in and out of narrow lanes around cattle, oversize loads, camels, and people crossing the street. Motorcycles, cars, trucks, and buses all jockey for a place in this line. I am amazed every time I safely navigate these roads, and for good reason: in 2014, 16 people died every hour driving on Indian roads.
I few days ago I was returning via motorcycle from a farmer’s field. As we passed a roadside temple where people had gathered for a festival celebrating the god Shiva, a small truck swerved around a group of buffalo. It is not unusual for farmers to drive cattle on rural roads, but this time the truck had spooked one buffalo directly into our path. Badru, my research assistant and the bike driver, swerved to avoid the charging animal and our motorcycle skidded into the dusty shoulder.